Israeli forces violently suppress Palestinian protest in Naqab | News

Beersheba, Israel – Dozens of Palestinian Bedouins were injured in a crackdown launched by the Israeli forces to protest against the continuation of Israeli afforestation in the lands whose residents say they secretly own near the city of Beersheba (Beersheba).

About 500 demonstrators took part in Thursday’s rally, which began at 3 pm (1300 GMT). They were met by hundreds of Israeli forces who fired rubber bullets, tear gas, sound bombs, and skunk water.

At least 15 protesters were arrested, according to local media reports. The demonstration took place at the entrance to the Bedouin village of Sa’wa, at the crossroads of a main road on Road 31, east of Beersheba.

Hoda Abu Obeid, a local activist, said that the police attacked the demonstration shortly after it began.

They used a lot of violence and beatings. “There are wounded and others have been arrested,” she told Al Jazeera.

The latest escalation began on Monday, when bulldozers from the Jewish National Fund, a quasi-governmental agency, heavily protected by police arrived in the nearby village of al-Atrash and bulldozed Bedouin farmland in order to plant trees. Israeli officials said the cultivated land belongs to the state.

Demonstrators raised banners reading “The land of the Negev is for its people” during Thursday’s demonstration [Al Jazeera]

The Palestinian Bedouins protested the move and the confrontations continued for days. Videos And Pictures On social media, Israeli forces were shown arresting and beating residents who had arrived to defend the land they use to grow wheat and barley.

At least seven people, including three children, were briefly detained on Monday and a local journalist was beaten. Today, Tuesday, the Israeli forces demolished two sit-in tents in the villages of al-Atrash and al-Sa’a, fired stun grenades and rubber-coated metal bullets, and arrested about 20 people. Villages were also closed, with residents prohibited from entering and leaving.

Lawyers told Al Jazeera that at least 80 Palestinians have been arrested since the protests began, including minors. The vast majority of them are still in detention.

Marwan Abu Freih, a lawyer representing some families and a field coordinator with the human rights group Adalah, said: “There is a clear escalation.”

“It is unprecedented that the bulldozers of the Jewish National Fund are arriving with such protection – hundreds of police, special forces, mounted police – that has never happened here before,” he told Al Jazeera.

The police, he said, “besieged villages, set up checkpoints, stopped traffic – prevented people from returning to their homes and prevented school buses from getting in and out.”

Create facts on the ground

The JNF is tasked with developing and renting land for Jews only, and owns 13 percent of Israel’s “state land”. State land constitutes 93 percent of all land in Israel.

Abu Fraih said that the current afforestation work by the JNF will affect thousands of dunams of privately owned Bedouin land in the Naqa al-Sabaa area, which has 28,000 residents who live in six villages that Israel has never recognized.

He said, with residents, that while many families lived on these lands before the creation of Israel in 1948 and some arrived in the decades that followed, the lands have not historically been registered with the state.

Between 1970 and 1979 the Israeli authorities allowed residents to apply for registration, which they did, but more than 40 years later, their land ownership cases remained open in the Beersheba District Court, with little progress.

“Ninety-nine percent of the cases have yet to be adjudicated,” Abu Fraih told Al Jazeera, adding that the JNF was “trying to create facts on the ground.”

Negev protestsIsraeli forces used drinking water to suppress a protest on Thursday [Al Jazeera]

Abu Obeid said that the demands of the people are clear.

“Learn about all the unrecognized villages – the first on this list are those in the seventh soak,” she said.

“Secondly, the recognition of the Bedouins’ ownership of their lands that they owned and lived on since before Israel and before 1948,” she told Al Jazeera.

About 300,000 Palestinian Bedouins with Israeli citizenship live in the Negev region, which makes up about half of the entire country.

More than 90,000 of them live in at least 35 villages that Israel considers “unrecognized” to be threatened with demolition, and the state considers them “transgressors.”

In 2019, the Israeli authorities announced a plan to forcibly transfer 36,000 residents of unrecognized villages to other towns.

The authorities refused to connect the majority of unrecognized villages to the national electricity or water networks and not provide them with basic services, such as paved roads and sewage systems.

Between 2013 and 2019, Israeli forces demolished more than 10,000 Bedouin homes in the Negev.

– Judaizing the Negev

The developments that occurred this week come within the framework of the Israeli government’s decades-long policies to “Judaize” the Negev region through development projects worth one million dollars aimed at attracting more Jews to live in these areas, documented in official Israeli statements and plans, and human rights reports. .

The Israel Land Authority, which manages the Jewish National Fund, plans to plant about 45,000 dunams in the Negev with trees “to preserve open spaces and nature from illegal control,” according to official Israeli statements.

The JNF makes up nearly half of the board of directors of the Israel Lands Administration, which controls the vast majority of land in Israel.

“The ILA wants to hold the land, and that’s their job. Bedouin squatters, and one way to stop them from doing that is to plant trees. Alon Tal, an Israeli parliament member who has worked for the JNF for more than a decade overseeing forests, told Media Israeli media: “They subcontract with the Jewish National Fund to carry out the work afterwards.”

The majority of the land that the JNF acquired from the state was done between 1949 and 1953, and is classified as “absentee property” – owned by Palestinian refugees who were expelled by Zionist militias during the 1948 war to create the state of Israel.

Negev protestsThe residents vowed to continue confronting the heavily armed Israeli forces that arrive every morning to allow afforestation [Al Jazeera]

Abu Freih said that while the land designated for afforestation could be used to develop the unrecognized villages, the authorities want to prevent this.

“They want to concentrate the largest number of Bedouins on the smallest mass of land,” and “prevent families from owning and cultivating their land.”

Miqel Al-Hawashili, the field coordinator of the Regional Council for the unrecognized Bedouin villages, agreed with him.

The Negev constitutes about 13 million dunams (1.3 million hectares) of land. There are 300,000 Bedouins living on only 400,000 dunams (40,000 hectares) of it,” he told Al Jazeera.

Hawashli added, “All their projects in the Negev must pass through unrecognized villages – the state does not want to recognize them or the people’s ownership of these lands.”

As the razing and afforestation work continued in these lands, the residents vowed to continue protesting and confront the heavily armed Israeli forces that arrive every morning.

The Higher Follow-up Committee for Arabs in the Negev, a local umbrella, announced a general strike that began on Monday.

“We have taken the decision to take proactive measures, starting with the adoption of a six-month cumulative resistance program that will lead to a regional general strike and mass demonstration outside the Prime Minister’s office, and the internationalization of the matter to expose racist practices [of Israeli authorities] The commission said in a statement.

Mobilization is also taking place at the national level, with protests taking place on Thursday and Friday in the town of Umm al-Fahm in the north of Kafr Kanna, and Palestinian students at Tel Aviv University.

“They are bringing in all these police because they know that these lands belong to people,” Abu Obeid told Al Jazeera.

“They treat it as if no one lives here – as if this land is not cultivated every year.”

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